"Feeling the loss of control of my life is more agonizing than panic"

Written by Helene Aecherli on Tuesday, 05 August 2014. Posted in Gaza

An account from Gaza City

Anwar and I met a couple of years ago in a Café in Cairo. I was taking some notes, he just asked me, what I was writing. First I was disturbed, thinking: “Oh, no, please leave me alone”. But he just grinned and asked me if I minded him smoking a cigarette, I said “Yes!”, and then he lit the cigarette and we talked for hours. He told me that he was from Gaza City and was finishing his Master studies in Cairo, I talked about my work. And from then on we roamed the cafés in Cairo and checked out the rooftop bars of the town, discussing politics, religion and above all love. About one year later, when I was back in Cairo for a story, he pondered about going back to Gaza City. And he did – he went back, even though he knew, life would be difficult. Facebook, of course, has been our bridge of communication since then.
During the last weeks, the weeks that have been filled with the bombing of Gaza, I have been worrying deeply. I am relieved whenever I see that he has posted something on his Facebook wall. That shows me that he is alive. Some days ago I asked him, how he is. Here is his account:

“Hearing the bombs is like hearing the voices of devils and it does not stop, and when it gets closer you feel the devils are closer. In the first few days of the war we were trying not panic as we thought Israel would target fighters at the borders or resistance targets in the city, and since we are not related to any of those, we thought we might be safe. Day by day Israel proved that we were naive and the targets were innocent civilians on the sea,on  their balconies, inside their homes, in schools, hospitals, everywhere. Our panic increased and it was clear that there is no safe place in Gaza.

When I hear the bombs I feel I that I have lost control on everything, and feeling the loss of control of my life is more agonizing than panic. I keep remembering my life choices and what led me to the situation I am living in right now and what chances or options I might have rejected. Regret is also more painful than panic.

I try to be strong and to give positive energy to my family to make them feel better, but when I am alone and back to my world I fear that I will go crazy. My nieces and nephew, who are seven, five and four years old, refused to go out to the supermarket during a ceasefire. They are too scared to understand that all the bombs that made them tremble of fear all these days, that destroyed the glass and the windows of their homes and made them incompatible to life so that they were forced to move to their grandparents’ house, would stop for a few hours. I convinced them to go out after telling them I will take them to the restaurant of Deira Hotel so that they could play there like they did in the old days. Maybe that helped them dare going to the supermarket. But I felt that they were not ok while I was driving and they were not ok either in the supermarket when they bought their favourite "Kinder Surprise Eggs". Only when we reached Deira Hotel they felt fine as they were going back to life.

Deira Hotel was full of foreign press, mostly Western media. While all of them were staring at us, especially at the little kids, since we were the only locals in that beach hotel restaurant, no one seemed to be interested to talk to the children and ask them how they were. I told my mom about my observations, and she replied that we are not important to them. They are only interested to show the world the blood covered, dead people and not the living. Moreover, I felt that they were not interested to show the world that there still is an everyday life in Gaza, that there are people struggling for normality, that there are people living here in Gaza, who look the same and have the same longings and lifestyle as people in every city in the first world: to lead a normal life, to take care of their children, to have a good job and to enjoy life. I felt they want to keep an image of Gaza that doesn’t go beyond badly dressed children and ugly streets and houses. Maybe they do that to sell their stories. But they made me feel that we are not important. We seemed to be out of time and place for them. 

The children were right after all and the ceasefire was broken and we had to rush back home.

For many Israeli and Palestinians the issue of resistance is all that matters. People on both sides strongly believe in an armed solution. And people in Gaza have many different beliefs. To sum it up: some people believe that they should fight Israel no matter how many people die untill they get whole Palestine from river to sea. Others believe that life is unbearable after all those years of suffering from the Israeli siege. And dying with dignity is better than living with no hope, they think it’s ok to sacrifice hundreds of people to make the rest of the people live better since the dead will go to heaven. And again there are others, who believe that there is no use to fight Israel as its military strength is incomparable with that of the Palestinian resistance; they believe that every human life is important and the only way to live in dignity is by peaceful resistance. They blame both Israel and Hamas for not giving a chance to make this happen. The first and second group can accept each other’s beliefs, but the third group is blamed to be weak and even worse – its people risk to be accused as traitors. Sadly, this could also be a reason for the ongoing conflict. But during this war those three beliefs have united like never before. Dying for a better future and living for a better one have combined in one word: Gaza.

My family can’t accept the loss of human lives. We strongly believe in the right of our existence on our land and try to have a lifestyle that is similar to that of others who live in calm places in the world. That has been our way of resistance. But now, after this war, I fear that this won’t be possible any longer. We strongly feel that sooner or later we might lose our lives or the lives of our loved ones in this conflict. The taste of getting a better life after all these lives lost is tasteless for us: a better life with taste of blood! And Israel makes it clear that there will be no ethics in its wars against Palestinians and that it’s not interested to make this tiny place, Gaza, suitable for living.

And Israel makes it clear year after year that it won’t allow a life to this tiny land left to Palestinians because it wants it all. Palestinians are shown as poor people and fighters who love to die, but this is not true: we love to live. Palestinians proved that they tried to establish a real democracy in the Middle East, but it had no chance to live.

If I had the power to create peace, I think I would turn to the West, especially the UK, as the problem created in this land was made by the help of the civilized world in the 20ies 40ies. This world should work in obligation for the Palestinian people, its role is a must, not just a help, it has a historical and ethical responsibility. It can’t hide reality anymore, it has to find a solution. The world has become smaller and justice to Palestinians is of interest to all humans -  not only to Palestinians.

1,8 Million people live in Gaza. Around 1800 have been killed in this war so far. Analogous to these figures there would be 307’000dead in the USA, 1’300’000 in China, 1’200’000 in India and 8000 in Switzerland.

Could and would any of these countries afford such a loss of lives?”

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